By John Lutsch
In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. When his financial patron Lord Carnarvon, who was looking over Carter’s shoulder asked if he could see anything inside, Carter replied, ‘Yes, wonderful things.’
The Crawford’s Macedonia Restoration and Storage Facility may have little in common with the Valley of the Kings, but it too contains ‘wonderful things’ in a myriad of rooms which are not open to the public.
One room reveals shelf upon shelf of carefully stored vintage headlights; from oil-fueled to acetylene, to electric-powered. Nearby are corresponding glass lenses for the headlamps glimmering like jewels. Another room contains a trove of silver trophies, from aviation’s Golden Age to classic automobile races to awards garnered by some of the Crawford’s most noteworthy cars.
It was in a rather dark corner of a small storage area that the subject of this article was discovered, surrounded by equally rare and beautiful objects. It is an original casting of ‘La Cigogne’ (The Stork) created by French Sculptor Francois Bazin in 1920. Not only is it a beautifully executed bronze work of art, but significantly, it is the prototype for the ornaments which graced the radiator caps of all Hispano Suiza motorcars from 1920 onwards. It is an iconic image familiar to most vintage automobile enthusiasts and has been reproduced in all sizes and materials throughout the past century.
Bazin’s inspiration for the sculpture was the image that adorned the flanks of the aircraft of French flying ace Georges Guynemer during World War I. Bazin served in the fighter squadron led by Guynemer, and the artist wished to create a tribute to his commander who was lost in action. Coincidentally, the black prancing horse seen on all Ferrari automobiles was given to the automaker by the mother of the Italian fighter ace Francesco Baracca who carried the symbol on his aircraft, and was also killed in the last year of the war.
The stylized image of a flying stork was not exclusive to Hispano Suiza however. The wildly exquisite French Bucciali cars, produced from 1922 until 1933 had the bird emblazoned on each side of the engine cowlings, creating a unique and unforgettable impression of speed and elegance. They are among the rarest and most desirable of the great classics from the Golden Age of motoring.
Bazin went on to become a very successful artist, creating many significant works in bronze and porcelain throughout his long career. In addition to ‘La Cigogne’, he was responsible for several additional sculptures that eventually became coveted hood ornaments for exotic automobiles. To own one of Bazin’s hood ornaments is a collector’s dream, but to have one of the original sculptures on which they are based is extraordinary.
‘La Cigogne’ is cast in dark, low-luster bronze and is affixed to an elliptical, veined marble base. Dimensionally, it is 13 inches tall, 16 inches long, and around 6 inches wide. Its weight is approximately 20 pounds. The artist’s signature appears cast into the ‘cloud’ base supporting the stork. It clearly is part of a small edition of sculptures, but the exact number is unknown.
In the near future, the Crawford hopes to have the exquisite ‘La Cigogne’ on display for everyone to enjoy. It may not have the same cachet as King Tut’s belongings, but it truly is one of the rarest of birds.